During this time of year, sources secular and religious alike encourage us to keep the “Christmas spirit” during the season, but that statement almost feels like a platitude, becoming as much a part of the season as the things it rails against, like commercialism and so forth. And maybe that’s why I feel like Charlie Brown sometimes during Christmas, thinking about all the things that the season is not about and unable to be in the frame of mind I so desperately desire to be in during the holidays.
In ReLIFE, the little gem of a romantic comedy that finished its run with an OVA earlier this year, the main characters—Arata and Chizuru—have a lot on their mind as well. They aren’t thinking about travel plans and presents and budgeting, like I am, since they’re high school students (well, sort of—the anime starts with the premise that Arata is part of a paid experiment that has him redoing a year of high school as a student), but they’re not really enjoying the joy of Christmas either. There’s too much on their minds. For Arata, he’s primarily worried about what will happen when he finishes his time as a student; Chizuru, who sometimes makes Sawako seems downright suave when compared to her social awkwardness, can’t figure out her feelings toward Arata.
So of course, Chizuru asks Arata out on a Christmas date.
The date goes fairly well, though at the end, the two are confronted with their feelings for one another. Unlike most Christmas episodes in anime where characters go on a date, which almost play like fan fiction that once completed, resets back to canon, this episode is ReLIFE is pivotal. Arata and Chizuru need to get to the heart of the matter, but in their way are all their doubts and concerns.
Do you know the story of Mary and Martha? Jesus came to the sisters’ home, and while Mary listened attentively at his feet, Martha spent all her time hosting and later complained that her sister didn’t help. That passage is so very applicable to how we celebrate Christmas—some of us are able to enjoy the occasion, while others are so caught up in the preparation that we forget what it’s all about. And that’s the struggle, too, for Arata and Chizuru.
Thankfully, the two are able to cut through the cloudiness. Challenges and questions remain, for sure, but the haze is lifted for a moment and something real and authentic occurs. Both Arata and Chizuru are at peace on Christmas Day.
In the midst of final exams, shopping lists, feelings of loneliness, and even laboratory experiments, should we all find that kind of peace in this wondrous season.
Day 9: Join us as we dive into episode 38 of Pretty Rhythm: Rainbow Live tomorrow!
The ReLIFE series and concluding OVA can be streamed on Crunchyroll.